Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 Review
Although NIS is best known for the Disgaea series of comedy SRPGs, the company has worked on a bunch of other one-off titles. Despite the name, Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 is dedicated to two of those one-off title, the charmingly melancholy Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered and the gritty apocalyptic fantasy Soul Nomad & The World Eaters. Phantom Brave tells the tale of a young girl feared for her strange powers and her ghostly guardian setting out to carve a place for themselves in a world that does not want them. Soul Nomad focuses on a dying world and the youth who could save or utterly destroy it in what may be NIS’s darkest game yet. Both of them have their strengths, but their age is really beginning to show.
Both these titles have some very strong, and dark, writing behind them. Phantom Brave is a story that begins with death. Specifically, the death of protagonist Marona’s parents and their young partner, Ash. With the last of his power, Marona’s father manages to partly resurrect Ash as a spectral Phantom, trapped between life and death. Ash resolves to spend his existence taking care of Marona, who inherited her father’s necromantic powers. Together, they work as Chromas, mercenary adventurers like Marona’s parents, trying to gather enough money to buy the island Marona has been renting since her parents died. Ash copes with his untimely demise by pouring all his energy into taking care of his young charge. Meanwhile, the perpetually cheerful Marona lives in the shadow of her parents’ sacrifice, struggling to use her power to communicate with and command the dead to help others. She hopes that one day, everyone will come to like her… but for much of the game, she’s bullied, harassed, and taken advantage of at every turn, with her only friends being Phantoms. However, things change when the dark forces that killed her parents resurface, and Marona may be the world’s only defense.
Do It For Gig
While Phantom Brave isn’t that much darker than NIS’s other works, it does explore how it feels to be alone and hated by the world. Soul Nomad & The World Eaters, meanwhile, is darker than NIS’s other works. It probably shouldn’t have gotten away with a T rating back in 2002 and definitely shouldn’t have gotten away with a T rating again now. Soul Nomad puts you in a world at the brink of destruction after the invasion of Gig, the maddened Master of Death, and the giant monsters known as World Eaters. Though Gig was slain 200 years ago, the World Eaters are still around and the planet is slowly dying. In this dangerous age, a young warrior – default name Revya – is entrusted with the powerful weapon known as the onyx sword and sent out into the world with their childhood friend. Unfortunately, the sword contains the vicious spirit of Gig, who immediately gets to work trying to take over your body.
The good news is that Gig isn’t able to take your body by force. The bad news is that your will to survive is now the only thing between the rampaging god of death and finishing the apocalypse he already started. Wait, that’s not bad news at all; Gig is easily the highlight of the game. There’s a reason this guy keeps appearing in Disgaea DLC. Anyway, Gig makes a deal with you: you can use a bit of his power in exchange for giving him more and more control over your body. What follows is half desperate struggle with an unhinged deity and half buddy cop show as you and Gig drag each other all over the world—you trying to save it, and him planning to destroy it once you fail.
Soul Nomad’s main campaign is quite dark, touching on some very mature themes, but it has absolutely nothing on the New Game Plus route known as the Demon Path where Revya decides to out-evil Gig. While Soul Nomad definitely comes off better than Phantom Brave in this two-pack, I don’t recommend charging into Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 blindly. Not only are both titles remarkably bleak at times, but they’re also quite old now, and believe me, it shows.
First things first, Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad are NIS games, which means if you’re not level grinding constantly, you’re probably not playing right. However, steep level grinding can be overlooked if you’re sufficiently into a game. You know what can’t be overlooked? How blurry the sprites are getting. It’s very obvious that these games are from several generations back, and while Soul Nomad makes the retro look charming, Phantom Brave’s highly detailed and emotional sprites are just jarring now. I played the Wii port of that game years ago and it’s painful how bad it looks on Switch. I recommend playing in handheld mode if you want to enjoy the sprites properly. Fortunately, the sweeping soundtracks and storytelling still hold up.
Twice the NIS Level-Grinding
Some of the voice-acting is lackluster in Soul Nomad including the narrator, but others are quite solid. Yuri Lowenthal’s Gig is easily worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, Phantom Brave doesn’t have Gig, and Marona’s high-pitched English voice can get quite irritating. Some of the more dramatic elements, including Ash’s death in the prologue, are also ruined by faltering English voices.
Each game puts its own spin on the Disgaea SRPG mechanics, to differing degrees of success. Phantom Brave introduces the confine mechanic where Marona must use objects found throughout the battlefield to summon her ghostly allies and dispenses with the usual SRPG grid, which was a bit mistake. Soul Nomad has been described as Fire Emblem meets Ogre Battle. Most of the mechanics involve using Gig’s great and terrible power to dominate the wills of others, arrange squads of dominated characters, and use powerful Gig Edicts to influence battles. Its mechanics are quite finicky and you can lock yourself into a move easily. Furthermore, while Soul Nomad’s writing is still entertaining and powerful, it can’t be denied that times have changed and some elements are now pretty offensive. You also can’t really zoom out to get a better look at the battlefield mid-fight. If you’re fond of SPRGs, you’ll probably enjoy these games, but they’re unlikely to lure in anyone new to the genre.
All in all, Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 is two classic games in one visibly aged package. If you’re interested in seeing what else the people behind Disgaea have been working on, this will be a real treat. However, I wouldn’t recommend these games to people who aren’t already fans of NIS titles. And if you’re a Soul Nomad fan, then what are you waiting for? Not only did NIS finally port the game to a new console, but it also threw in a free second game.
***Nintendo Switch game code provided by the publisher***
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Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 Review – Two Classics in One Visibly Aged Package